The Ok Tedi mine, one of the largest copper mines in the world, demonstrates the difficulty of waste management in mountain environments and the impact mine waste can have on downstream people and ecosystems. The Ok Tedi mine is located high in the Star Mountains of western Papua New Guinea. The area is subject to extreme rainfall (exceeding 10 m/yr) and is in an active seismic zone (Eagle and Higgins, 1991). A tailings dam was originally planned for the mine, but during the construction phase in the late 1980’s, it collapsed and the company was given permission to go ahead with an alternate waste management plan. A crude, low-cost option consisting of erodible dumps was employed – essentially waste is dumped on steep slopes designed to erode into the headwaters of the Ok Tedi River, a tributary of the Fly River.
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From collection: Waste Management Outlook for Mountain Regions - Sources and Solutions